Five Misconceptions About Christmas

1. Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem the night she would give birth to Jesus. 

Our nativity plays often portray the story as so but in actuality we don’t know this for sure to be true. It is quite possible that the couple arrived in Bethlehem weeks, even months, before she was due (Luke 2:1-7).

2. There was no room in the inn.

We actually don’t know if there even was an inn in Bethlehem.

According to Ben Witherington III, we have no archaeological evidence of this claim nor do we have reason to think there would be an inn in such a small town. Witherington believes that the word kataluma which we’ve commonly translated as inn actually is referring to a guest room. Because of the census decreed by the Roman emperor Augustus, it is likely that Joseph and Mary returned to his home town and stayed awhile with family as did many of his relatives.

3. Jesus was born in a stable.

Again, the gospels never mention this. We simply have believed this because Luke records that Mary laid baby Jesus in a manger (2:7). The reality is that this could’ve taken place in a cave or a barn among other venues.

4. Jesus was born on December 25th.

The likeliness of Jesus being December at all is highly improbable. It is more likely that He was born in Spring, Summer or Fall because the shepherds were in the field at night (2:8). Shepherds did not typically do this in Winter due to the cold conditions.

5. Three wisemen or kings came to visit Jesus at his birth.

  1. We actually don’t know how many wisemen there were. This has simply been assumed because Matthew lists three separate gifts that were presented to Jesus (Matt 2:1-12).
  2. These wisemen were likely astrologers due to their insight into the stars (2:2 & 10).
  3. It is likely that these wisemen did not arrive to see Jesus until He was much older, namely because when they arrived in Jerusalem inquiring about Jesus, it is evident that He has already been born (2:2). Also, because Herod decided to have all the boys two years and younger killed in order to have Jesus killed (2:16), we can assume that he, too, didn’t think Jesus was a baby anymore.

Seven Reasons Why I Believe in Jesus

Growing up, I doubted Jesus. A lot. To be completely honest, I still do from time to time.

After Jesus had risen from the dead, Thomas, a disciple of Jesus, still doubted Him (John 20:24-39). If one of Jesus’ disciples is allowed to wrestle with the truth of Who Jesus is, I don’t see why we can’t either.

Towards the end of my senior year in high school, I began to critically investigate Who this “Jesus” was. Who is He? What does He want? Why did He come to earth? How do we know that He’s real? And is He really God? I mean come on…

After much critical research, I began to slowly believe in Jesus, His gospel, what He said, what He did, and what He stood for. Even though there are many others, here are seven reasons why I believe in Jesus:

  1. His resurrection from the dead. After Jesus died to pay the penalty for the sins of His people, He resurrected from the dead conquering sin, death, and the enemy Satan. We know that more than 500 people saw Jesus after He died (1 Cor 15:6). There are three explanations for these appearances: 1) they were lying, 2) they were hallucinating, or 3) they actually saw the risen Jesus. Number one doesn’t make sense simply due to the fact that many of these people including all of the disciples were outcasted or even murdered for making such claims. Why would they risk and even give there lives for a pointless cause? There is no motive. Number two to this day cannot be medically verified; no two people have been known to have the same hallucination at the same time. Therefore, it is reasonable for us to conclude that they saw the risen Jesus. Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus, our faith would be in vain (1 Cor 15:19).
  2. His impact on human history. How could a working-class average joe from a tiny village in the first century become so famous that at this very point in human history, it’s estimated that 2.1 billion people worship Him? Even more so, other faiths and cults such as Islam and Mormonism believe in Jesus as well. The fact is that there is far too much overwhelming evidence for His existence. He has forever changed human history. You can’t ignore Him; You have to do something with Jesus.
  3. Who He is: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord. C. S. Lewis correctly pointed out the trilema when it comes to approaching Jesus: Jesus could only be an incredible liar, an incredible lunatic, or an incredible Lord; there’s no other option. His teachings and claims to be God incarnate and the Savior of humanity give us no other options.
  4. The reliability of the New Testament manuscripts. This one sold me. There are vastly more early New Testament manuscripts (with limited insignificant errors) than any other piece of writing we have in human history. Check it out.
  5. The numerous Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. This one blew me away. The book of Isaiah was written at least 600 years before Jesus was born and is filled with countless prophecies of who Jesus is, what He would, how He would do them, etc. Just read Isaiah 53 and see how intricate the prophecies were. Here are ten major prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus.
  6. The utter meaninglessness and hopelessness of life apart from Him. Let’s face it: life sucks. Terrorism and wars, genocide and discrimination, sexual abuse and slavery, divorce and suicide. The list goes on. Without Jesus, what’s the point of living? Why go through this life of constant pain, struggle, and suffering if there is no reason or hope that things will get better? Jesus came to redeem, renew, restore, and recreate. Without Jesus, my life (and yours, too) would be meaningless.
  7. The cosmological argument. Explaining this philosophical argument would take an entirely different post. If you’d like to learn more about this, check out William Lane Craig’s defense of this argument on his blog.

If you are interested in researching the validity of Jesus, the bible, and the Christian faith, check out some of these resources:

1 – Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

2 – C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity

3 – James W. Sire’s Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All?

Jesus at the Movies

What if Jesus went to the movies? Would He be an extra butter type of guy? Skittles or Starburst? Reese’s Pieces or Peanut M&M’s? Coke or an Icee?

More importantly, how would He view movies? 

Among Christians, the verdict varies extensively. To some, Jesus would have had a difficult time watching rated G movies because of the subliminal messages. To others, Jesus would watch anything that isn’t rated R unless it’s about Himself, of course. In other circles, we find Christians that are against an inch of skin being shown but still enjoy watching people get shot and blown up; I’ve never quite understood that crowd.

For the most part, the church seems to distance themselves from much of pop culture due to fear of “getting dirty” or being influenced by sin.

Imagine if Jesus would’ve walked into the 1st century speaking American English, wearing 501’s and a Ramones t-shirt, rocking Chuck Taylor’s and hipster glasses while listening  to Mumford and Sons on His white iPhone 5s through His earbuds; wouldn’t He be just a little out of place?

Jesus and Paul Engaged Culture

In the opening chapter of John’s gospel, we see that in order for Jesus to reach out to sinners, He became like them in both nature and appearance (John 1:14). We also see in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus was quite familiar with the culture of His day. He used the popular sayings [i. e. “you have heard it said”] and language as a means to evangelize (Matthew 5:21, 27, 38, 43). This is why when Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:14-18, He said that His people are in the world though not of it.

Similar to Jesus, Paul also was extremely familiar with the culture of His day and used it as a means to identify with the people. Luke describes for us in Acts 17:22-34 a time in which Paul addresses a group in Athens. In his message to the people, Paul 1) quotes the rockstar of their day, 2) shows how through idolizing this rockstar, they’re life is void and meaningless, and 3) how Jesus fills this very void. Just like Jesus, in order for Paul to reach the people, he became like the people.

So this begs the question: how would Jesus view and use the movies of our day to reach the people of our day?

Engaging Movies with Jesus

Paul encouraged the Christians in Collasae to do everything in their daily lives for God (Col 3:17). We, too, are to do as such; this includes watching movies. When seeking to watch a movie through the lens of Jesus, there are two questions to ask:

  1. How and where is Jesus in this?
  2. If He isn’t, how and where is Jesus missing?

By asking these two questions while watching a movie (or watching tv, listening to music, reading a book, etc), we are able to identify how the movie is either a portrait of a redemption with shadows of Jesus or a storyline void of any lasting joy, hope, and meaning. Here are two examples:

Harry Potter and Jesus

Though in the past, the book and film series has received much criticism from the church due to the story’s witchcraft and wizardry, J. K. Rowling’s series is  actually a shadow of God’s story of redemption. Harry is portrayed as a Christ-like archetype who takes on the Satan-like archetype Voldemort. In the end, Harry conquers his enemy (Voldemort) and his army of darkness by dying and resurrecting from the dead. Aside from these few key and striking similarities between Harry Potter and God’s story of redemption, there are many more throughout the series that identify the books and movies with the bible.

Regardless of the witchcraft and wizardry, we as Christians must not neglect to use one of the biggest and most famous book and movie series of all time for the sake of the gospel. There’s a reason why so many people hold these books and movies near and dear to their heart; the hero of the story is a shadow of Jesus, the maker and satisfier of their heart.

Gatsby Missing Jesus

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby, which was recently adapted as a film, is a key portrayal of life’s meaninglessness and hopelessness apart from true and lasting love. Gatsby is a man with a culturally-deemed picture-perfect lifestyle, owning anything and everything he wants and yet is still missing something (or someone). He seeks joy, companionship, comfort and love in the long, lost love of his life, Daisy. In the end, Gatsby never does find fulfillment through his relationship with Daisy and unfortunately loses her and his life to the cause.

Many people resonate with The Great Gatsby because, like Gatsby, their lives are left hopeless and void of meaning a part from true and lasting love. Similar to him, people seek fulfillment in things and people other than Jesus only to be left dry, empty, and depressed; Jesus is the only person that can truly satisfy one’s soul.

Concluding Thoughts

Don’t just watch movies; view them through the lens of Jesus, engaging both His heart and mind to connect with not only the people who made the films but also the people who find glimpses of joy and hope in watching them.